By County Executive Ed Day
In 2016 there were nearly 45,000 suicides in the United States, that is more than twice the number of homicides, making it the 10th leading cause of death according to the CDC. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34 and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54. As a parent and longtime youth sports coach these statistics are particularly troubling.
Earlier this year I took part in the “Be The 1 To” awareness campaign. In addition to raising awareness it illustrated how easily you can be there for those in need. Be The 1 To: ask tough questions; be there without passing judgement; help them connect to a support system; Be The 1 To save someone’s life. You can watch the #BeThe1To PSA on our Rocklandgov.com website.
Loss through suicide is not isolated to people with pre-existing mental illness or substance use disorders. It affects all age groups, all ethnic groups and all religious groups. 54 percent of the people who killed themselves didn’t have a previously known mental health issue. Instead, these people were suffering from other issues such as relationship problems, substance misuse, physical health problems, job or financial problems, and recent crises or things that were coming up in their lives that they were anticipating.
Loss by suicide has a lasting impact on the friends and family left behind. It is not a solution to anyone’s problems but simply a cause of great pain to all around. Screening for suicide and awareness of the warning signs, along with knowledge of community resources is important for all of us. Much more needs to be done to tackle this growing problem. Every conversation we have helps erase the stigma, helps make it a little bit easier for someone dealing with a problem to talk about it.
September is National Suicide Awareness month and the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Rockland, run through the Rockland County Department of Mental Health, in conjunction with area provider agencies and advocate groups is hosting numerous events throughout the month.
NAMI of Rockland is hosting a viewing on September 26 at the Regal Cinema in Nanuet of “Suicide: The Ripple Effect.” The film highlights the journey of Kevin Hines, who at age 19, attempted to take his life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Today Kevin is a world-renowned mental health advocate and motivational speaker who travels the globe spreading a message of hope, recovery and wellness.
The film chronicles Kevin’s personal journey and the ripple effect it has on those who have been impacted by his suicide attempt and his life’s work since. There will be a panel discussion afterward for anyone who needs help processing the film. I urge you to attend this or one of the other events happening this month to help change the perception of suicide. It’s a serious problem, but it’s one we can get through together.